June 20, 2004

The "Transformationists": As Reckless as Saddam?

How ticked off are intelligent pro-war people about the Administration's post-major combat phase handling of Iraq?

This T.O'd:

The willingness of members of the Bush administration to abandon their past records of prudence and match Saddam's reckless and delusional behavior with their own may have been the most important element missing from my own thinking about the war.

Alexander Cockburn? Robert Fisk? Noam Chomsky?

Nope, Ken Pollack!

Pollack is clearly torn on Iraq now well over a year out.

He rues the fact that Powell didn't have more influence re: Iraq policy-making and, correctly, states that one might have thought he would have around the time he was spearheading passage of 1441.

And Cheney, whom Pollack doesn't talk about quite as much, had as 41's SecDef shown a willingness to mount a war effort in the Gulf with 28 coalition partners and a high troop count.

But, of course, this was pre-9/11 Cheney.

He hadn't yet caught the "fever"!

Pollack doesn't mention Wolfowitz at all and mentions Rummy just once (unless you count the reference to the "transformationalists").

But, of course, everyone knew that those two would be key players in any prosecution of the Iraq war. And, it bears noting, they weren't necessarily known as the most cautious, realpolitik types in the Beltway.

What we didn't know, I guess, was that State was going to get so firmly shut out of the process and, most important, that the Pentagon would be flat out unwilling to put enough boots on the ground to create secure conditions.

That, ultimately, was the biggest F up (with the related disbanding of the Iraqi army writ large with the requisite Jacobin fervor amidst all the de-Baathification chest-beating).

Does this mean Wolfy (or Rummy) pace Pollack, were (are?) as "reckless" as Saddam?

No, that's a tad exaggerated, don't you think?

But it does mean they imperiled a nation-building excercise with their stubborn refusal to pursue real 'shock and awe'--at least 300,000 troops patrolling that country, securing supply lines; specialized constabulatory units policing less 'hot' areas; more marines; fewer reserves; more effective intelligence gathering (sans Ghraibian truncheons) fewer lugubrious 'sack-hoods' and razor-wire; fewer I.E.D's and terror bombings.

Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria wishes we had done Iraq more like we did Afghanistan:

Why has Afghanistan been more successful than Iraq? In Afghanistan, the Bush administration adopted a version of postwar policies developed over the '90s. After the war, it handed the political process over to the United Nations and directed its military efforts through nato. The United Nations was able to structure a political process (the loya jirga) that had legitimacy within Afghanistan as well as internationally. With some massaging, it produced a pro-Western liberal as president. Making the military efforts multinational has meant that today, the European Union spends about as much on Afghanistan as the United States and that the new Afghan army is being trained jointly by the United States and ... France.

Of course, loya jirgas are a bit harder to pull off when two ethnic groups in a country have been victims of genocidal policies by another.

Put differently, I'm not so sure Zakaria is right that Afghanistan was perhaps a more complex state-building exercise than Iraq.

Iraq is plenty hard folks. Probably, all told, harder.

Even if we had NATO and, er, the French there (who, incidentally, have likely let Radovan Karadzic slip through their gallant Gallic fingers more than once--so aren't necessarily the most, er, morally upstanding peacekeeping partners to be in bed with).

Posted by Gregory at June 20, 2004 04:42 PM


But it does mean they imperiled a nation-building excercise with their stubborn refusal to pursue real 'shock and awe'--at least 300,000 troops patrolling that country,


What surprises me is while this line of thought may have merit from a military perspective it doesn't politically here in the U.S. (But, many cling to it as a point of criticism.)

While many wanted more troops it seems obvious to me that if Bush had actually asked for that many there would have been division and protest more so than what we have seen.

If he had asked for that many he wouldn't have been able to muster the politcal strength to wage the war. Hence, leaving Hussein in power and a threat.

Posted by: none at June 20, 2004 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First off, thank you for affording me a response to your postings. It is almost too easy for bloggers to turn off contrary views than welcome them.

As for Ken Pollack, he suggests having a mind meld with Secretary Powell, how he (Powell) would have changed the course of the pre-war activities had he had his way.

I find it personally remarkable about how Secretary Powell is used by pundits. The "good Powell" is the one that supports a particular pundit's worldview. The "bad Powell" is the one who agrees with the President, Vice President and the entire Bush administration. It is unfortunate indeed that Secretary Powell is used to underscore Pollack's agrument. We should let Powell speak for Powell, a feat for which he is completely and competently capable.

The other nonsense is that somehow Secretary Rumsfeld and VP Cheney hold ultimate sway over the President's decisions. President Bush will never win a prize in oratory, but his leadership is stellar. While he listens to views in the same manner that JFK listened to his cabinet, he like JFK know they are utlimately responsible for their own decision.

We never will run out of armed chair generals (both retired and amongst those who never served) who wail about not having enough boots on the ground. It is impossible to argue that contention given the three-week invasion, better argued immediately following the war aftermath, but is inconceivably argued today. As the current generals in theater contend, the need is for Iraqis to take over security for their own country, not to have it retarded by a bigger footprint of Coaltion forces.

Zakaria's comparing Afganistan with Iraq represents only a pretense for waging a role for the UN in Iraq. But the UN and the opposing members have now gotten virtually everything they orginally sought, yet French, Gemany, and the UN have taken themselves out of the game in spite of these concessions.

Posted by: Capt America at June 20, 2004 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am less convinced that more troops would have improved the situation or served the nation's interests. If we still had fourteen divisions in the US Army, or even twelve, and a more fully staffed USMC, I would agree. As it stands, putting 300,000 pairs of boots on the ground would have been stripping the cupboard bare. Reserves aren't important until you don't have any, and the 300K figure would have eliminated our nation's ability to handle other crises. I suspect that 300,000 troops in Iraq would have resulted in an invasion of South Korea.

If you want the US to be able to put 300,000 pairs of boots on the ground, for when we have to go into Iran, we need to increase the size of the US Army and US Marine Corps. To do that, we need to close bases and fund training and bonuses for the troops. Unless and until the Congress pulls their head out and starts to improve the situation, our troops will bear the burden.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at June 20, 2004 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Zakaria is a native of a country, that broke apart, after a brutal secessionist conflict, with

two of the sections aligned along sectarian lines

(the counterpart of Shia and Sunni tribal republics)

staring nuclear daggers across its borders; with

the former being a contributor to global nuclear

proliferation. I hope he's not recommending that

fate for Iraq, as for the Balkan or Cyprus analogies


Posted by: narciso at June 21, 2004 02:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rummy & Wolfy are half as reckless as Saddam. He recklessly invaded two countries, while they've only recklessy invaded one country (so far).

Posted by: anonymous at June 25, 2004 12:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You can never have enough troops on the ground.

Economy of force (an American war fighting principle had you cared to pay attention) is not having enough boots on the ground to prevent any possible enemy effort. That is clearly an impossible task. Armies are about the difficult. The impossible must be left to the Force.

Adequate force means enough troops to RECOVER from an enemy action and prevail(counter attack). By that measure we have enough troops.

We are now in an attrition warfare phase. This could last as long as four or five years. It is not a sign of failure. It is a sign of success. What is necessary is the patience and will to remain until civil order is fully restored. We must keep at it until the jihadists lose the will to fight. That may take some time.

Another thing that needs taking is Iran. It is my understanding that our bases in Iraq will be quite handy if Iran needs attention.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 28, 2004 04:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The adequacy of the troop numbers has been tested.

Uprisings all over Iraq. All put down. American morale hardly shaken. Confidence in our troops and generals strengthened.

By that measure we had enough boots.

Policing is a civilian problem. What ever its inadequacies re: the military in April 2003 the question in June of 2004 is moot. Iraqis are now policing themselves. Eighteen months out and the civilians are starting to take care of themselves. Good.

I'd say Iraq was in good order. Iran now needs more of our attention.

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